I’ve talked before about how I grew up without a mom, but never in detail. I think this is mainly because I assume that the majority of the people who read my site know the story (and don’t want to hear it yet again 🙂 ). But with the internets, I guess I can’t assume anything, so, in short, my parents weren’t married when I was born. My mother wanted to give me up for adoption. My dad decided he wanted custody of me. He won the court case and I left the foster home I had been in to go home with him when I was two months old. Other than exchanging a handful of letters for a few years when I was around 12 years old, I had no interaction with my mother until I was 22 and she had the adoption agency I was originally supposed to have gone through find me. I met her for the first time when I was 28 years old.
It’s been a defining characteristic of my life in many, many ways. It’s difficult to hide, especially when you’re a little girl, that you don’t have a mom. In school and daycare, mother’s day crafts didn’t have a recipient. In Girl Scouts, mother-daughter retreats were either not attended, or I’d go solo, becoming the parasite to some other duo’s memory-making weekend. Puberty was difficult, to say the least. Crushes were stifled. I often went to school without lunches and more often made my own supper and did my own laundry (which resulted in a lot of lavender-colored clothes). I could go on, but you get the idea.
When I was young, surprisingly, these things didn’t bother me as much as they do now. I remember it just being the norm….just how things were. When other kids found out that I didn’t have a mom, they’d ask, “Do you miss her?” and all I could say was, “No.” You can’t miss what you’ve never had.
There were a few things that I did wish for in, what I considered, the “mom” department, but one thing in particular was something that continues to this day as something I’ve always longed for…..simply a mom who would brush my hair. The image of a mother brushing her daughter’s hair is, for some strange reason, uncomprehendingly touching to me.
But I digress.
When we found out C was a girl, I was a little in awe. I really, honestly, truly would’ve been okay if she had been a boy as there was a part of me that wanted a little brother for B (and believed that she was actually going to be a “he”). I could call them “my boys” and my house would be constantly loud and crazy and lacking food. All the phrases that people had thrown at me when they found out B was a boy (“oh that’s good! boys are so much easier than girls!” “little boys just love their mommies!” “the teenage years will be so much better for you!” etc. etc.) floated around my head when I thought about adding another little boy to our clan. I imagined him wearing his big brother’s clothes and again being able to see a tiny baby in all of the little outfits I had cherished and kept in storage for the last few years.
Still… There was another small part of me that really hoped that this second bump of mine would reveal a little girl. And that small part wasn’t disappointed.
So I was in awe. I started thinking about all the things that I would do with my little girl that I didn’t have anyone to do with me when I was growing up. I happened to pick up Gather just before we had the 20-week ultrasound and there’s an entire chapter for tea parties which I pictured doing with her some day. I thought about putting her in little dresses and finding bows for her hair. I thought about buying dolls for her and finally finishing the dollhouse I’ve had for almost thirty years. I thought about showing her (and her brother, of course) how to cook and sew and all the other things I’ve had to teach myself how to do. I thought about talking to her about boys and helping her through THE CHANGE without shame (as I had experienced so much with mine). I thought about teaching her that it’s okay for girls to play in the mud and like trucks (or Jeeps, in my case 🙂 ) too.
I thought about being her friend. I thought about brushing her hair.
And the more I thought about things, the more excited I got. Of course, on the other side of that, the more I thought about things, the more scared I got as well. Because…really….what in the world do I know about raising a girl? What do I even really know about being a girl? To a certain extent, my entire life I’ve felt like being female is some kind of exclusive club that only little girls with moms were allowed into, and I was never shown the secret handshake.
Sometimes I look at her now and I pray to God I don’t screw her up. I know this is probably a common prayer for most parents regardless of gender, but my worry comes from a place of not really being sure that I’m able to show her what a woman is. At least, not a woman who had a good example of her own to follow.
I know we’ll be okay. That she’ll turn out just fine regardless of my blundering. But I want to do this well. I want to savor it. I want to enjoy a mother-daughter relationship as I’ve never been able to before now. And I want her to not experience the insecurities I’ve had my entire life.
We all want better things for our kids. I want my little girl to be a far better woman than I ever had a chance of being.